MS Podcast#77


The 77th MediaSnackers podcast discusses BT’s corporate social responsibility investments/strategies.

(WORLD) The MediaSnackers podcast focusses on individuals, organisations or companies who are simply impressing us and which are crying out for more discussion.

Dave Hancock is head of Education and Volunteering for BT, talking to MediaSnackers about thier education and youth programmes.

0.00—0.20 intros
0.21—1.15 BT Education and the Better World campaign
1.16—4.26 manifestion of the strategy
4.27—6.15 the Seen and Heard Awards
6.16—8.09 the digital age focus
8.10—9.54 why BT cares
9.55—11.10 the future
11.11—11.21 outro

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Dave Hancock: I’m Dave Hancock. I head up education and volunteering within BT, which is part of corporation social responsibility activity.

DK: Brilliant. Well, welcome to the podcast. Sorry, David. Thanks for giving up your time and tell us a bit about BT head education for those who don’t know what it’s all about and it’s goals and current focus if you would.

Dave Hancock: Okay, well, our education program is now part of a slightly wider campaign called the Better World Campaign. and what we’re trying to do is to really raise the profile of how important communication skills are as a key enabling life skill, for not only young people, but also for adults as well. And specifically working with young people because we believe that firstly, they have a tremendous opportunity to make a difference to the future of the planet.

But, secondly we know that there are lots of young people out there that still have ideas and do want to do things and we need to make sure that adults actually take their views on board.

DK: Okay.

Dave Hancock: So that’s a broad essence of what we’re doing.

DK: No, that’s a bold one at that and it’s great. Now I know you kind of, that’s kind of strategic overview. Tell us a bit about how that’s manifests itself then in projects work or even kind of delivery stuff.

Dave Hancock: Okay, sure. Well, there are three elements to really what we’re trying to work with and I’ll give you those three elements and a few examples of things that we do within that.

DK: Brilliant.

Dave Hancock: The three elements are we work with young people specifically that have got a communication need and we do a lot of work with Child Line. We then try and help them improve their communication skills, by involving parents and teachers as well as themselves. And then once they’ve raised their communication skills we encourage them to use platforms and any methodology that’s possible for them to make social changes in their community, whether that me local or might even be global.

So those are three principals. If we start with the first one, which is young children in need and we work with those children that have got specific difficulties with communication. Some of that is to do with the background they come from. Some of it’s to do with the fact they probably been excluded from society.

So we work significantly with Child Line, we’ve raise millions of pounds for Child Line and we’ve ensured that over the last five years the number of calls that have been answered by Child Line has gone up from round about 40 or 50% up to greater than 90%. So 90% of all children that ring Child Line will actually get somebody to answer it and not have to leave them a message.

DK: Fantastic.

Dave Hancock: If we look at the elements of the communication skills and we’re talking here primarily about spoken communication skills, then we have a mass of resources available from our website and it’s for young people themselves or teachers or parents and the age range goes from minus nine months, so we talked to parents-to-be about how important it is to talk to their children whilst their still in the womb right away through to life long learning and people who have retired and still want to improve their skills.

The third element is trying to provide opportunities for young people specifically to make a difference. So, we have a series of awards that recognize young people who’ve gone out and done something that’s very specific, that’s called the Seen and Heard awards, which I mean we can talk about. Also, we encourage people to discuss things and opportunities amongst themselves. We work closely with the UKYP for instance, because there’s an organization that recognizes it’s probably a little bit middle class to a lot of young people. But it’s going out and seeking the views of the range of young people that you’ve got from those that are under terrible circumstances, finding it really hard to survive right up to the people that are currently going through schools; whether they’re grammar schools or what have you. And we encourage them to try and do something that actually is going to make a difference to the planet.

DK: Ok man and you’ve mentioned about the Seen and Heard Awards, now that’s the kind of exciting bit for me. Tell me a bit about what that it and what it does.

Dave Hancock: Okay. Well the Seen and Heard Awards are recognition that we give to young people every year. And these are young people that have had an idea or responded to a need in their local community or their school and actually done something to make some changes.

Take for example, there are young people that have decided it would be good to have a recycling scheme and I can think of one of the top of my head where a young girl decided to recycle batteries there at her local school. And this was then adopted and taken up by lots of other schools in the area.

So we’re looking for kind of ideas that will then get rolled out. And we encourage those ideas to be rolled out by the skills that I suppose that BT has, because we’ve got quite a wide range and quite a wide reach. And this year what we’ve done differently is we’ve actually started to talk to these young people about what skills and qualities specifically have they used to kind of make a difference in their local community.

So we promote the Seen and Heard awards and we ran an event the other day for instance, where we got three young people that had won awards in the past for a variety of things. One of them had actually started up a new company and then we provided an opportunity for young people in London that these are school people that live in London to actually come along and have an audience with them and we can ask them questions and hear what they’ve done and what they’ve managed to do, which is very inspiring for people to realise that you can actually do all sorts of things even if you are not necessarily academically gifted.

DK: And there’s an emphasis on speaking and listening when you kind of read the Better World Campaign. But I know it’s flavored with this kind of rhetoric around the digital age and I know as BT you’re a progressive company in that regard take technology very seriously. How are you kind of weaving that into the stuff and the campaign as a whole?

Dave Hancock: Well the critical things for us at BT is actually what you pointed out. We’re a networking and an IT company. But one of the things that we recognize\se is that people still need communication skills to be able to use the technology. I mean, just imagine that we didn’t even need wires in any way to talk to people. We could do it extrasensory perception. We could just think. We would still need to say, “Hello, Man. How are you? I’ve been doing this. I’ve been doing that.”

DK: Course.

Dave Hancock: “Check that you’ve agreed the arrangements.” All those human communications skills are really, really important. What we’re doing to link that into the technology specifically is we’re are starting to develop an idea that we need to focus on collaboration. And it’s probably been one of the topics for the future because collaboration is all about human beings working together to achieve something; whether that’s actually part of a team at work, whether it’s part of a team in sports, football teams or whether it’s actually people collaborating across the world as they increasingly do in this global society; to actually work on projects and design new products. And of course collaboration allows us to bring in the human skills, the process skills and the technology. So we’ll be looking at how things like social networking sites and Boxcars and pubcars which we are at the moment are help people do that.

DK: Brilliant. And then like a lot of stuff you’re talking about it’s bold, it’s great, it’s forward thinking. But why does BT invest in this stuff? Why do you care about kids and communication?

Dave Hancock: Well, It’s part of a bigger picture. Most large corporates are involved in something that’s called corporate social responsibility which sounds very grand and it’s very big, but in every person’s terms it really means corporate’s doing the right thing. Recognising that you’re a big employer, you have a significant influence on the development of the country and you want to do the right thing and lots of corporates put money directly back into the community. So we put half of a percent of our pre tax profits straight back into the community.

And what we did was to asked our customers where they thought we ought to be putting that money and they said education, charity and social inclusion. So those are three significant areas of what we do. The biggest is education and we’re absolutely passionate that we need to help people improve their communication skills and there are two clear points of evidence for that.

One of them is that young people are starting school these days unable to even speak, some of them in some areas, let alone are able to interact with other kids and therefore sit down in lessons and pay attention and do all those kinds of things.

And on the other end of the spectrum, young people find it increasingly difficult to go to an interview where there’s faced with old men like me, in grey suits asking them questions and they get very nervous. And this is one of the things that you need to be able to do if you’re going to get a job or go to college or university.

DK: Certainly. So. Let’s wrap this interview up with a question about the future, which I usually ask. What are the kinds of future plans for BT education, the Better World Campaign or as you were saying corporate social responsibility. What, where do you think it’s going to go?

Dave Hancock: Well, there’s no question about it. The Better World Campaign itself will continue building on the successes it’s had in raising the issue about the importance of communication skills and working specifically with young people. What we’ll be doing more and more is involving young people in helping us develop those resources because we need to make sure that we’ve got young people’s input into what they want and into what they think we as adults should be doing to help them take charge of the planet in the future.

The corporate social responsibility activity is undoubtedly likely to start to address climate change as one of the big issues of the moment and we have a very important part to play in that because we need to make sure that people have the skills to debate and discuss the issues. To analyze and make assessments for themselves about whether they believe the scientific interest, evidence rather or whether they don’t. And as a result of that whether to actually start doing things to make sure that this planet’s still here in millions of years time.

DK: Brilliant. Well, I’d like to just thank you for your time David. And it’s been a pleasure talking to you.

Dave Hancock: Thanks DK. Nice talking to you.

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